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This is my third time with mouth cancer! I don’t normally say cancer - I usually just say "C". I have always hated the word. I had a good reason for this hatred!
My name is Vicki Lynn and I live in Las Vegas, USA; I have two children from my first marriage, Jamie Lynn and Shane. I have a wonderful husband Ric. I have a sister, Judy, and two brothers Keith and Steve. This is my story.
It all started in 1989, fifteen years ago. I had been going to my dentist regularly to get my teeth cleaned and some minor repairs done as necessary. So when a small white bump came up on the side of my tongue, I called my dentist immediately concerned about this bump. It hurt like as if I had bitten my tongue. Which is what my dentist also thought. So she gave a prescription for Lidocaine (a topical anesthetic) gel. I used it for about a week, but then noticed that this bump had become a hole, white around the edges and black inside, and it hurt a lot more than earlier. Now I was quite upset.
My dentist sent me to an Oral Surgeon which did a biopsy right then and there. Those of you who have never had a needle in your tongue cannot begin to know the pain of this. Needles never bothered me up until then. I am no baby but that was a lot for me. That one sent me flying off that table - I passed out! I had my two children and my very best friend, Christine there with me at the time. She had to drive me home that day.
That night at 8:30 pm I got a call: it was cancer! My husband, at the time, my friends and my children were all there with me, but when i took that call, I was alone, no one heard those words but me, 32 years young and I have cancer, how did this happen, and why me. For the first minutes after the call, I was numb, you could have stuck me with a pin and I would not have felt a thing. I turned to everyone there and told them, “I have tongue cancer.” All the necessary phone calls were made that night after the kids went to bed and friends went home. I cried and I cried. I was terrified, scared to pieces. I had lost my mother to lung cancer when she was 42, lost my father at 49 to a heart attack. Here I was, as healthy as a horse, with cancer!
I had all the CAT scans, MRIs, chest x-ray’s, blood work, and then it was time for the surgery. On my 33rd birthday, they removed almost half of my tongue, some of the floor of the mouth, and the lymph nodes on the right side of my neck. The surgery took 10 hours long. My family & friends waited outside for the news, of how much was removed and the outcome of it all. I was in deep, deep sleep. But when I awoke: tubes were everywhere connected to me, felt pain. Oh my, I just wanted to die! No mirrors anywhere but I did find one, it didn't take me long to realize why there were no mirrors in the room for when I saw me, the girl who went in the hospital sure looked different now!
My head was so heavy, packed with gauze inside outside, everywhere... I was beside myself...I was in the hospital for 23 days...the first 7 days in intensive care, which is the norm. I was miserable. First, they had me do a swallow study. Then, I had to learn how to swallow all over again. I could eat only very, very soft foods or clear liquids. I could talk but the r's, t’s, f’s were almost impossible at first, but after a while I could get them out. I was given a mouthpiece to wear at night to try to flatten my tongue; it didn't help but we tried.
I left my dentist, for I honestly thought she should have known what this was. My ENT sent me to California to sew a portion onto my tongue – they took a graft from my neck sewed it onto what was left of my tongue, however about three days later I ended up swallowing it. You can laugh, I did afterwards, but I almost choked to death on it! My ENT said that we could try it again but I declined to do so. That was that!
I went for checkups every month for 1 year, then it went to every 6 months for 1 year, then every year...i thought i was cancer free. I had several scares throughout this period but nothing – biopsies came back negative. My ENT had done such a GREAT job you couldn't even see the scar from where the lymph nodes were removed. He is the best.
Remember the husband in 1989, well he couldn't take the trauma of it all, that marriage ended after only five years. I am no quitter though; I knew there was someone out there for me to love and to love me. When Ric and I married I was cancer free, though I had known him for years, we were very good friends.
It had been 10 years, I was supposed to be cancer free! In October, right before my 43rd birthday I applied for life insurance, as I was at the 10 year mark when I could get it for myself. The very day before signing the papers or the day I was to send in the papers, I had a dentist appointment. Bammm, it was back! But this time I hadn’t felt it, perhaps because I didn't feel a lot of things in my mouth these past few years. My whole right side was numb inside and on the outside as well, the neck too. I suppose I could talk about that. My tongue where they had cut was very sensitive. I couldn’t take anything too hot or cold. No sharp foods or salty stuff, either. But other than that I was almost normal.